Barnfather v London Borough of Islington Education Authority, Secretary of State for Education and Skills: QBD 7 Mar 2003

The appellant was convicted of the crime of being a parent whose child had failed to attend school regularly. She challenged saying that the offence required no guilty act on her part, but was one of strict liability, and contrary to her human rights.
Held: Although the offence is one of strict liability, there is no reversal of the burden of proof. Article 6(2) has no bearing on the reduction or elimination of mens rea requirements, and is therefore compatible with offences of strict or even absolute liability. The section engaged article 6.2 but was compliant. Authorities should however be careful before exercising their discretion to prosecute.
Elias J said: ‘I recognise that the penalties are small, being only a fine, and that is a factor which can properly be considered when determining whether an offence of strict liability is justified. However, in my opinion there is nonetheless a real stigma attached to being found guilty of a criminal offence of this nature. It suggests either an indifference to one’s children, or incompetence at parenting, which in the case of the blameless parent will be unwarranted.’
Mr Justice Elias, The Honourable Mr Justice Mackay
[2003] EWHC 418 (Admin), Times 20-Mar-2003, [2003] 1 WLR 2318
Bailii
Education Act 1996 444(1), European Convention on Human Rights 6.2
England and Wales
Citing:
CitedRegina v Lambert HL 5-Jul-2001
Restraint on Interference with Burden of Proof
The defendant had been convicted for possessing drugs found on him in a bag when he was arrested. He denied knowing of them. He was convicted having failed to prove, on a balance of probabilities, that he had not known of the drugs. The case was . .
CitedRegina v Daniel CACD 22-Mar-2002
The defendant appealed a conviction for hiding assets from her receiver following her bankruptcy. He said that recent case law suggested that the burden of establishing the defence under section 352 was evidential only.
Held: The conviction . .
CitedMatthews v Ministry of Defence HL 13-Feb-2003
The claimant sought damages against the Crown, having suffered asbestosis whilst in the armed forces. He challenged the denial to him of a right of action by the 1947 Act.
Held: Human rights law did not create civil rights, but rather voided . .
CitedRegina v S (Trade Mark Defence) (Roger Sliney v London Borough of Havering) CACD 20-Nov-2002
The defendant alleged that the offence of which had been convicted, under the 1994 Act, infringed his rights under article 6.2 in reversing the burden of proof.
Held: The principle that the duty of proof lay on the prosecution was subject to . .

Cited by:
CitedSutton London Borough Council v S and Another QBD 26-Oct-2004
Parents had had charges brought against them by the appellant for failing to ensure the attendance of their child at school dismissed. The authority appealed.
Held: The authority should have considered more carefully whether it was appropriate . .
CitedRegina v G (Secretary of State for the Home Department intervening) HL 18-Jun-2008
The defendant was fifteen. He was convicted of statutory rape of a 13 year old girl, believing her to be 15. He appealed saying that as an offence of strict liability he had been denied a right to a fair trial, and also that the offence charged was . .
CitedLondon Borough of Sutton v S Admn 26-Oct-2004
The Borough appealed against acquittal by the magistrates of the defendant parent accused of failure to ensure the regular attendance of their child at school. The child had attended only irregularly. The parents had contacted the school and . .
CitedIsle of Wight Council v Platt Admn 13-May-2016
The Council appealed by case stated against a decision by magistrates that a parent who took his child out of school to take a holiday hod not failed to ensure that the child attended regularly. The record was otherwise regular and satisfactory.
Updated: 09 January 2021; Ref: scu.179544